By JASON EPP
Leader & Times
HOOKER, OKLA. – With just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter Hooker’s Chad Kennedy grabbed a loose ball under the Beaver Dusters basket dribbled around a defender and launched an alley-oop pass short of mid-court. The pass sailed over two Duster defenders and into the hand of Payson Slater who put it down to cap a 56-33 win over the Beaver Dusters for the Bulldogs.
“Excited to get that first win,” said Hooker Bulldogs coach Bud Valerius. “With only four days of practice we looked really rusty in that first half. We looked much better in the third quarter. All in all, I thought we played with effort, and if we do that I’ll be a happy man.”
That third quarter run was a 21-6 advantage for Hooker that gave the Bulldogs their first 20-point lead of the game. During that stretch, the Bulldogs got hot from beyond the arc hitting four, including three from Alex Sanchez who finished with a team high 19 points. The momentum carried into the fourth, and the Bulldogs led by 30 after back-to-back threes by Gabe Morales.
“We really struggled on offense in the first half,” said Valerius. We did get it going in the third. We did a good job on the boards and got transition baskets. We have to get those for us to be a good team.”
Early on, Beaver’s Trenton Downing’s (team-high 11 points) threes kept the Dusters in the game, and cut the Bulldogs lead to just one at 11-10 with 5:25 left in the first half. But an 8-0 run aided by four trips to the free throw line helped the Bulldogs build a lead. Beaver’s Kalen Gabel missed much of the second quarter after picking up his third foul on a charging call. Hooker led at the break 20-12.
“I thought we played hard,” said Beaver Dusters head coach Devon Thrash. “I thought we played good enough defense to win. Our execution was just poor tonight, but that will get better. I’ve only had my kids for a week-and-a-half, and it’s a whole new system. So it’s hard to get in everything we’ll be running at the end of the season. We are just touching the surface now.”